Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

the common rank of sermons; and, as sermons, they are not contaminated by any of that evangelical mixture which has been falsely denominated Christianity. We give great credit to Dr. Malthy for not interlarding his discourses with this kind of fashionable rhodomontade, when he probably knows that, if he had chosen to have recourse to it, he might have secured a wider circulation for his book than it is now likely to experience. Strange as it may seem, the area of sound good sense, with respect to theological opinions, has been very much contracted in its dimensions within the last few years: what is called Methodism, in some of its various shades of doctrinal absurdity, has made great inroads into the Church itself; and many ministers of the Establishment at present espouse opinions which few of them would not have been ashamed of advocating about five-and-twenty years ago.

Since that time, a much more general adherence to the most objectionable of the Thirty-nine Articles has been manifest, than through the whole of the preceding century. The Methodists, in a very early period of their spiritual domination in the Christian fold, began a furious attack on the clergy for not preaching according to the Articles, which, for a season, was repelled with vigour, and produced no alteration in the general style of pulpit-eloquence: but, when the complaints of the Methodists became sanctioned by the authority of Mr. Wilberforce on the one hand and of Bishop Horsley on the other, sermons on original sin, on the expiation of that sin by the death of Christ, and on other doctrines of mysterious import, but of uncertain authority, became very prevalent in the church. The opinions of the established clergy began to run in a new current; and, as that current was rendered more impetuous and powerful by the force of ecclesiastical patronage, it required some strength of intellect, as well as some energy of character, not to be carried away by the violence of the stream. Several of the clergy, however, had the courage to resist this irruption into the precincts of the Establishment, and chose rather to be censured as mere moral preachers, than to purchase honeyed praise by enlisting themselves under the banners of the evangelical party.

We are happy to add Dr. Maltby to the honourable band, who have not suffered their sermons to be tinctured by this infusion. They are, on the contrary, uniformly characterized by good sense, by enlightened criticism, by strength of moral reasoning, and by earnestness of practical admonition; and, as these qualities have not a mere temporary or ephemeral value, but are, by their inherent utility, calculated for permanent duration, it is probable that his discourses will be read, and with interest, when the farrago of others shall have mouldered in oblivion, or shall be remembered only to be numbered among the errors that no longer exist, and the follies that have passed away.

read, thought,

Our readers will in course expect from us some specimens of the abilities which Dr. Maltby has displayed in this yolume as an useful practical preacher, and a judicious and enlightened expositor of the Christian doctrine. We have always considered that kind of preaching as the most deserving of encouragement, which, while it enforces moral topics by the authority of Scripture and the sanctions of eternity, comes most home to the interests and bosoms of men. It would be difficult to find a better criterion by which to estimate the excellence of preaching, than by its tendency to add to the public stock of virtue and benevolence, to make righteousness more prevalent, and to give a wider diffusion to the principle of Christian charity. If

If this be, as we think it is, the general tendency of Dr. Maltby's sermons, he must be regarded as a greater benefactor to society than if he had mounted the pulpit under more popular banners, and had made the church ring with vague and indefinite phraseology.

In the second sermon, the important duty of self-reflection with respect to the actions and events of our past lives is inculcated. This subject is impressively treated; and the most salutary moral instruction is agreeably conveyed. The ensuing extract will sufficiently attest the edifying matter with which the whole discourse abounds:

• A prospect of pleasure or advantage presents itself to a young mind. Eager and impetuous he instantly follows it, not considering whether, on a nearer approach, its attractions may not be diminished; whether, after all, it be worth the trouble and anxiety of pursuit; or whether it may not have drawn him aside from some object, more yaluable and even more easily attainable. Where then is the great and general errour in the conduct of hu. man life? Is it that, at our first outset, we judge foolishly and act hastily? Is it that, the moment reason dawns, we do not perceive her full value, and give her at once the management of our wills and inclinations ? Surely not. He would be an harsh and ill-judging moralist, who expected, in the eagerness and fire of youth, the sedateness and discretion of advanced years. The fault, against which our censure should be directed; the fault, which alone can be censured with a rational hope of correcting it, is, not in the first resolution that is taken, - not in the first act that is committed, - but in those which succeed, that, when we have to resolve and act again, we do not attend duly to the effect of our former resolution and former action. In one instance we may have acted rashly, or without any time for

thought. And here, generally speaking, we have done wrong, Yet we cannot have failed to perceive the effects of that action ; and from them we are enabled to determine whether our first resolution was wise, and whether it might not have been materially improved, by giving ourselves time to weigh the probable consequences.

The grand defect, the great cause of follies and of vices, and of crimes, is this, that we do not suffer ourselves to grow wise by experience ; ---that, having severely felt the bad consequences of acting without reflection; having had an opportunity of comparing the effects of our impetuosity with those, which might have taken place, had we not been impetuous ; – notwithstanding all this, we pursue the same foolish course, and still allow ourselves to be surprised into indiscretions, still catch at every excuse, and are still ensnared by every temptation, although our means of reflecting with advantage have been greatly multiplied.'

The author yery clearly shews, and forcibly argues, that self-reflection, though it may be vain with respect to the past, cannot easily be often and seriously practised without a bene ficial effect on the future conduct. Preachers usually deal too much in barren generalities, for barren they are likely to be when they are addressed to the multitude, unless they are strengthened by particular and distinct exemplifications. It is the example that gives light to the precept, places it before the eye, fixes it in the mind, and entwines it around the memory and the heart. The passage that follows is in unison with our notions of the manner in which a preacher ought to enforce his moral exhortations. The author is still inculcating the duty of making the review of our past conduct conducive to our future good:

• If the tradesman resolves upon an unlawfnl and dishonest schéme of profit, which turns out contrary to his expectation, the discovery and acknowledgment of his folly and his knavery will be useless as to the past, though it may have a very benen. cial effect upon the future. If the labourer, instead of carrying his earnings at the end of the week to the support and comfort of his wife and children, should, after some struggles with his conscience, resolve to engage in some plan of extravagance or intemperance, he may be brought to a sense of his fault by the pain of body and inquietude of mind which he himself feels, and by the sufferings of his starving and justly complaining family. But that conviction, which will not change what is past, may, nevertheless, have a most useful effect upon the future. In case of any

similar temptation, a man may hereafter consider, that he did give him. self time to balance between his appetite and his conscience; between his desire of self-gratification and the obligations by which he was held to the practice of honesty, or of temperance and sobriety. He may call to mind, that he did suffer the temptation to prevail over his virtue; the hope of some untasted good, over his known and bounden duty. He may call to mind, that the prospects of pleasure or of advantage, with which he flattered himself, have not been realized ; that, in the midst of enjoyment, the thoughts of his neglected and forsaken home came across him to poison every draught, so delicious in fancy; that this promised enjoyment was further embittered by contention, by angry words, perhaps by furious blows; that his body was disordered, his mind disturbed; and that, instead of the comfort he might have received by his own fire-side, he met only with reproaches too justly incurred, and complaints too well founded. If, in consequence of this recollection, he resisted or shunned the next temptation, forsook his dangerous companions, refused to partake of the intoxicating but bitter cup, reflection has come well to his aid, and his reward has been found in the approbation of his conscience, and the anticipated favour of his Maker.'

Sermon III. is designed to prove that a life, regulated by the precepts of religion, is productive of more sweet and more permanent satisfaction than any circumstances can make the result of dissolute habits and vicious conduct. As we are all engaged in the pursuit of happiness, and all equally interested in securing the object which we are so anxious to obtain, it is of the utmost importance to be able, on our first entrance into life, to discriminate the true constituents of happiness from those which have only its external semblance, and are in fact the real concomitants of misery.

· Let it be remembered,' says Dr. Maltby, that the great source of human misery is the misapplication of those various good things, which Providence has bestowed. Mere inactivity generates disorders; riotous living, grievous aches and pains : and heedlessness, dissipation, and criminal gratifications are the most general causes of want and distress. On the contrary, he, who follows after that wisdom, which is so justly the theme of praise and admiration with the wise man, preserves his body in health by moderation in his pleasures and activity in his employments. He, by well-directed labour, is more likely to be prosperous; and, at all events, he is secure from the distressing and disgraceful consequences of imprudence and excess. Here then at once is cut off a fruitful source of human miseries and heart-aches; while many positive pleasures are secured by the vigour of the body, the cheerfulness of the heart, and the well-earned fruit of honest and persevering industry. In this very important sense it is true, that the ways of virtue « are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace."

• Who is it that sees the unsteady gait, the swollen carcase, and the palsied limbs of the intemperate man, that thinks him an object of envy? Who can see the misery entailed upon a wretched wife and hapless offspring by the vices of a parent, but finds a practical lesson against vicious indulgence? Above all, who can reflect on the tortures, which continually rack the mind of him, whose time

is

is mis-spent, whose habits are licentious, whose idol is the world, and whose God is forgotten, — who can thus reflect, without the strongest conviction, that a life of sin is a life of unmixed misery?'

In the sixth sermon, preached before the University of Cambridge in the year 1797, the author expatiates on the pleasure and the profit which the strenuous pursuit of theological knowlege is calculated to supply. This knowlege, considered in its various divisions, will be found to furnish ample materials for the exercise of the highest intellectual capacity, while minds of an inferior order may make the acquisition a source of usefulness and delight.

- When I speak of Theology,' says the author, suppose not that I mean to recommend only the jejuneness of morality, or the asperities of polemics ; the dulness of scholastic jargon, or the refinements of metaphysical subtlety. I recommend that enlightened object of an ingenious mind, a research into the Evidences of Natural and Revealed Religion, - a deep and critical insight into the history and import of the sacred text, - an acquaintance with Jewish and Christian antiquities, as well as the regular series of Ecclesiastical History. In these pursuits the student, whether his inclination be directed to fact or argument; to poetry or to criticism ; will not only gain a general knowledge of what it is indispensably necessary for him to know, but he will also find ample employment in that course of reading to which his mind has been more peculiarly directed.'

• If philology and criticism have charms, the pursuit cannot be made less interesting, because the subject of religion, to which they may be directed, is in itself of the deepest importance. If the precise meaning of particular words, if the exact discrimination of their different senses as used by different writers, if the authenticity of a book, or the value of a manuscript, attract our curiosity, or employ our judgment, every impartial man will allow that the spur of the one must be sharpened, and the diligence of the other redoubled, when they are connected with inquiries, so momentous as those, which regard our future welfare. Be it ever remembered that, by the application of sound criticism to scriptural facts and scriptural doctrines, scholars have been enabled to repel the objections of unbelievers, to confute the errours of heretics, and to supply a most salutary warning against the rash assumptions, and chimerical interpretations, of fanatics.'

The seventh sermon, the subject of which has some relation to that of the foregoing, enforces the duty of habitual study and industry in a Christian minister. Those young men who are designed for the ministry of the Establishment, or who have been recently ordained, would do well to follow the judicious advice and the wholesome admonition which they will find in this excellent discourse. We particularly Rey. March, 1820.

X

recom

« ZurückWeiter »